The Siege of Paris 1870–71

In Our Time | 16 January 2020 | 0h 52m | Listen Later | iTunes
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian war and the social unrest that followed, as the French capital was cut off from the rest of the country and food was scarce. When the French government surrendered Paris to the Prussians, power gravitated to the National Guard in the city and to radical socialists, and a Commune established in March 1871 with the red flag replacing the trilcoleur. The French government sent in the army and, after bloody fighting, the Communards were defeated by the end of May 1871.

Coffee

In Our Time | 12 December 2019 | 0h 55m | Listen Later | iTunes
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history and social impact of coffee. Covers its origins in Ethiopia, spread through the Ottoman Empire, introduction to European coffee houses, spread with colonial trade, and its modern economy.

Malthusianism

In Our Time | 22 June 2011 | 0h 42m | Listen Later
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Malthusianism. Thomas Malthus argued that with population increasing exponentially, that food production could not keep pace – eventually a crisis would ensue. He suggested that famine, disease and wars acted as a natural corrective to overpopulation, and also suggested a number of ways in which humans could regulate their own numbers. The work caused a furore and fuelled debate about the size and sustainability of the human population ever since.

Napoleon’s Retreat from Moscow

In Our Time | 19 September 2019 | 0h 54m | Listen Later | iTunes
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how, in September 1812, Napoleon captured Moscow and waited a month for the Russians to meet him, to surrender and why, to his dismay, no-one came. Soon his triumph was revealed as a great defeat; winter was coming, supplies were low; he ordered his Grande Armée of six hundred thousand to retreat and, by the time he crossed back over the border, desertion, disease, capture, Cossacks and cold had reduced that to twenty thousand. Napoleon had shown his weakness; his Prussian allies changed sides and, within eighteen months they, the Russians and Austrians had captured Paris and the Emperor was exiled to Elba.

The Inca

In Our Time | 13 June 2019 | 0h 52m | Listen Later | iTunes
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how the people of Cusco, in modern Peru, established an empire along the Andes down to the Pacific under their supreme leader Pachacuti. Before him, their control grew slowly from C13th and was at its peak after him when Pizarro arrived with his Conquistadors and captured their empire for Spain in 1533.

Game Theory

In Our Time | 10 May 2012 | 0h 41m | Listen Later | iTunes
Discusses game theory, the mathematical study of decision-making, which entails devising ‘games’ to simulate situations of conflict or cooperation. It allows researchers to unravel decision-making strategies, and even to establish why certain types of behaviour emerge. Game theory is now a vital tool in fields such as evolutionary biology, economics, computing and philosophy.

Fungi

In Our Time | 15 February 2018 | 0h 48m | Listen Later  | iTunes
Discusses fungi: organisms which are not plants or animals but a kingdom of their own. The millions of species of fungi play a crucial role in ecosystems, enabling plants to obtain nutrients and causing material to decay. Without fungi, life as we know it simply would not exist. They also make possible the production of bread, wine and certain antibiotics.

The Bronze Age Collapse

In Our Time | 16 June 2016 | 0h 47m | Listen Later  | iTunes
Discusses the Bronze Age Collapse, the sudden, uncontrolled destruction of dominant civilisations around 1200 BC in the Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean and Anatolia. Explores potential reasons for the collapse including droughts, rebellions, the breakdown of trade as copper became less desirable, earthquakes, invasions, volcanoes and the mysterious Sea Peoples.